Kellie Harrington wins gold at European Olympic qualifier in France
Dubliner proves too good for England’s Caroline Dubois in lightweight final
Ireland’s Kellie Harrington celebrates winning her gold medal with coach John Conlan at the European Boxing Road To Tokyo Qualifier at Le Grand Dome in Villebon-sur-Yvette, Paris. Photograph: Dave Winter/Inpho
Kellie Harrington’s trip to Paris for the Olympic qualifier had already proved fruitful when, last Saturday, she booked her place on the Irish team heading to Tokyo, but the Dubliner rounded it off in style on Tuesday when she won gold in the lightweight final.
The 31-year-old beat Caroline Dubois of Britain, 11 years her junior, on a 4:1 split decision having used all her experience and strength to get the better of the highly regarded young boxer, Dubois having eliminated the number one seed Mira Potkonen in the opening round.
The only mystery about the decision was that one judge picked Dubois as his winner, having awarded her the first and second rounds, despite Harrington having the better of the contest throughout. That, though, wouldn’t have put a dampener on a triumph that will ensure a high seeding at the Olympics for Harrington, further boosting her hopes of medalling.
It was Harrington’s finest hour since she became world champion in 2018, a serious wrist injury disrupting her career the following year before the Covid outbreak laid her 2020 to waste. She beat reigning IBF super featherweight world champion Maiva Hamadouche last Saturday to secure her Olympic qualification, before rounding off the tournament in a manner that makes her a serious medal prospect in Tokyo.
Michaela Walsh, who had also already sealed her Olympic place, had to settle for silver after losing her featherweight final to Imra Testa, the Italian winning on a unanimous 5-0 decision after dominating the opening two rounds before the 28-year-old Belfast fighter began to rally in the third.
Harrington and Walsh are among seven Irish fighters – three of them women – who have qualified for the Olympics, the list completed by Aoife O’Rourke, Brendan Irvine, Kurt Walker, Walsh’s brother Aidan and Emmet Brennan, who won a box-off against Sweden’s Liridon Nuha to earn his place.
Speaking to RTÉ, IABA high-performance director Bernard Dunne hailed the achievement of the seven. “I wouldn’t say we exceeded expectations. We came out here with a plan for all our athletes to have an opportunity to qualify. I’m extremely happy for the seven that were successful.
“It’s been a long journey to get here, they’ve had to show real resilience to keep going throughout the last two years, especially. They have worked hard, stayed driven, and have been focused. I am delighted for the athletes, they have put so much into it. They have got just rewards in fairness to them.”